Planning A Pop-Up Shop? This Is Everything You Need To Know
Pop-up shops are a great way to raise awareness, make money or dip your toe in the world of retailing. By their very nature, they allow you to experiment with new ideas and concepts. If you can dream it, you can organise a pop up shop to reflect it. Suitcase Store ran a pop-up in the shape of a giant suitcase, and sold the kinds of things you might pack for a business trip or swanky trip away. It was a big hit. You can pick up some inspiration from them on this Pinterest board.
Even after reading this guide for how to plan, prepare, launch and run a pop up shop, you’re going to need to be prepared for a lot of work ahead. Think running a shop is easy because you worked in the local branch of a national chain? Don’t forget, all their backend support was done off-site. You’re going to need to handle all of the back-office processes involved in making your pop-up shop a success.
How to start planning to launch your pop-up shop
Step 1: Pick a concept
Before you’ve got a location or any stock, you’re going to want to decide on the concept or theme of your pop-up shop. If you’re already an existing organisation, this might be quite simple. If you’ve already got your own branding and range of products, the decision is made for you.
If you’re a charity or non-profit, try to think of a creative way to reflect your brand. For example, if you’re a dog rescue shelter - you could create a pop-up pet shop selling toys and treats inside a giant reconstruction of a dog kennel. You could take this one step further with a play area in the store, where people can either bring their own dogs to try the toys out, or just go in and have a go with their friends.
That’s just an idea but you get the picture. Try to be creative. It’ll help you massively with Step 4.
Step 2: Find your location
Lots of cities have dedicated locations for pop-up shops. It could be a store unit that’s not occupied by a full time tennant or maybe a space where you can construct your own thing. For example, in London you can rent space on the enormous Underground network (The Tube) and set up there. You’re basically guaranteed an enormous footfall. There are also the famous BoxPark locations across the city.
Wherever you are, you’ll find plenty of options. Just make sure you’re in a location with plenty of passing trade. Even if you invite all of your friends and contacts, you’re still going to need members of the public to make up the numbers.
Step 3: Select your stock
You know your concept and where it’s going to be. Now you need something to sell. For this, you’ve got a few options. If you already make your own product, a pop-up shop is a great way to build a buzz and get the message out there. Cath Kidston do a great job of this in their pop-up shops.
If you’re not making and selling your own products, the world is your oyster. Not to blow our own trumpet but we would be a great place to start. Men’s Society’s range of handmade, natural giftware products are brilliant for pop-up shops. You can grab a free catalogue here. We can even customise and own-brand our gift sets so people disperse into the city carrying your brand in their hands everywhere they go. They’re like walking adverts! Again, grab a catalogue.
Alternatively, you could go super-niche and select items that specifically compliment exactly what you’re trying to do. Let’s revisit our doggy rescue concept. In that pop-up shop, we’d be looking at stocking organic dog food, some toys, leads, grooming products etc.
Whatever you choose, don’t forget that you’re hanging your hat on this. Your products need to be something that your customers will actually want to buy. Even if people love your concept, they’re going to need to equally love the things you want to sell.
Step 4: Spread the word
Marketing will make or break your idea! You need plenty of people to be talking about your pop-up before it even gets there. There’s no secret potion for this. Just follow these pointers and you’ll be fine.
You’ll want to be on social media, obviously. Instagram is great for showing off how cool you are. Use local hashtags and tag relevant other accounts (if you’re stocking products from a particular supplier, tag them into some posts) to help more people see your content. Try not to be too corporate. Instagrammers want to see real people. If you’re having a stressful day trying to construct or plan something, post a picture of your stress. People will relate.
Bloggers are fantastic. They’re usually super enthusiastic and have very engaged audiences. Some very popular bloggers will ask for money in exchange for write-ups. Personally, we don’t get involved in that. Often, smaller blogs (called micro-influencers) will have a more engaged and committed audience. Bloggers are normal people. Build up a relationship with them, treat them nicely and they can be fantastic folk to know. Don’t forget to invite them to your launch party!
Most places still have local newspapers or even magazines and radio stations. Here’s a secret. They’re all under staffed and desperate for great local content. A cool local pop-up shop is brilliant content for them. Tell them all about yourself, show them how amazing you are and they will be falling over themselves to promote you. To make their lives even easier, prepare a well written press release and include lots of images. Even artist’s impressions. The easier you make it, the more likely they are to offer you coverage.
How to survive your pop-up shop’s launch day
Day 1. It’s not quite make-or-break… but it’s close. You’ve invited all your friends, the local newspaper is coming and the bloggers are getting glammed up for the big ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Chances are, you had no sleep the night before and plenty of things aren’t quite ready yet.
Here’s the thing: this is always the way. Every single pop-up shop organiser goes through exactly the same thing. By tonight, you’ll look back on this all with a massive smile on your face.
There are a few things to remember. Firstly, thank everybody for coming. Anyone who takes a minute out of their day to come and look around your pop-up deserves to see you smile and look them in the eye. Secondly, take pictures of everything. Your first day will probably be your busiest, so get as many pictures as you can. Use a few on Instagram now and bank a few for quieter days. Thirdly, wear comfortable footwear. Just trust us on this one.
How to keep your pop-up’s momentum going into the future
You survived day one! Now you need to keep this excitement and momentum going for as long as your shop is open. Here are some tips:
Keep in touch with your contacts. Those bloggers, journalists and influencers you made friends with at the beginning would all love an update. Don’t bombard them, but a quick reminder of how brilliant you are is always a good idea.
Motivate your staff/volunteers. Passers-by aren’t going to come in if you all look miserable. Unless that’s your theme, obviously.
Stay stocked up. Getting stock levels right is an art-form. Check how quickly your suppliers can replace your stock. We can usually get orders there the next day, around most parts of the world. Click here for a catalogue.
Remember to thank everyone. The world is an abrupt place. People remember kindness.
Ask for expert advice
It’s ok to have questions. Luckily, there are plenty of people around who will be more than happy to answer them for you. For example, we’ve been supplying giftware to pop-up shops since 2012. There’s probably no question that our experts haven’t answered at least once before.
We would be happy to help you. Whether it’s just offering advice or supplying stock, please drop us an email to email@example.com or call +44 (0)1406 362633. Our office hours are Monday-Friday 8am to 4pm, UK time.
Click here to download a free catalogue of fantastic gifts for your pop-up shop.